After pulling into a first-place tie with the Diamondbacks in the NL West with a victory in their series opener, the Los Angeles Dodgers look to move alone atop the division for the first time since the first week of the season Saturday at Arizona.
The NL West has been the most disappointing division in the majors, and the Dodgers (47-49) can take over sole possession of first after Friday’s 8-7, 11-inning win.
James Loney led off the 11th with his eighth home run of the season as Los Angeles pulled even atop the division for the third time in 11 days. The Dodgers hit three solo homers over the final five innings and finished with a season-high four home runs, including two by Nomar Garciaparra in his first multihomer game since Aug. 4, 2002 with Boston.
Los Angeles, which was as many as seven games out of first April 25, has not been alone in first place since it was 3-1 on April 4.
“It’s still early,” Garciaparra said. “We have to focus on just winning ballgames.”
The Diamondbacks (47-49) seemed to have a strong hold on the West with a major league-best 27-15 record on May 16, but they’ve since posted the third-worst mark in the majors at 20-34. They are trying to avoid falling three games below .500 for the first time since finishing the 2006 season 76-86.
Dan Haren (8-5, 2.72 ERA) looks to prevent that from happening Saturday while keeping his team in first.
Haren is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his last six starts, allowing two runs or less in each of those outings. On July 10, the right-hander gave up two runs and three hits with a season-high nine strikeouts in eight innings of a 7-5, 11-inning victory over Washington.
Haren, who allowed two hits and a walk in two scoreless innings of Tuesday’s All-Star game, is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this season. He’s 2-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three career starts versus Los Angeles.
Los Angles counters with Chad Billingsley (9-8, 3.25), who looks to extend his recent run into the second half.
Billingsley didn’t win his first game of the year until April 30 and was 4-7 with a 3.71 ERA after 15 outings, but has gotten things turned around lately. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA in his last six starts, striking out 38 in 33 1-3 innings in the victories.
On Sunday, Billingsley gave up one run and five hits with no walks and a career-high 13 strikeouts in seven innings of a 9-1 win over Florida.
“I started off kind of slow this year. But, personally, I didn’t feel like I was throwing that bad,” he said.
“I was able to finish up the first half strong. My off-speed stuff has been great recently. Hopefully, I can just carry this into the second half so we can make a run at this thing.”
Billingsley faced the Diamondbacks twice in April when he was struggling, losing both starts and posting a 9.72 ERA. He’s 3-3 with a 4.08 ERA in seven career starts versus Arizona.